Chapter Eleven: Part Two

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Gwen stirred at the sound of Forneus's voice, his warm breath tickling her ear.

"It's okay, sweetheart. You can let go. We're here."

Let go?

Confused, she opened her eyes. At first all she could see was a blur of colour; pale, creamy skin tone melding against dark blue. Slowly, her vision grew sharper, the dark blue morphing into a coat sleeve, the pale skin-tone into thin, tightly-clenched fingers. Very familiar fingers, in fact. Didn't she have a scar on her right thumb just like that one? And that smattering of freckles, there; they looked just like the ones on the back of her...

As soon as it hit her, she let go, heat creeping into her cheeks when she realized she'd been clinging to Forneus yet again. "Sorry," she murmured, averting her gaze.

"No need to apologize," said Forneus with a kindly smile. "It's not every day a mortal travels into someone else's memory, after all. Shall we?"

He gestured toward a winding dirt road stretching out just before them, surrounded by ramshackle buildings on either side. Farther back were wheat fields, and beyond that, marshlands, the sun setting just passed the rolling slopes. Or perhaps it was rising. Without a compass, and not having a particularly sharp sense of direction to begin with, Gwen wasn't entirely sure which way they were facing, let alone whether it was sun up or sun down.

Gwen stumbled back in alarm when something came between her and Forneus, briefly obstructing him from view. Gathering her wits, she realized that the something was actually a someone; a boy on the cusp of manhood, probably only a few years older than she was. He strolled past without as much as a backward glance, staring purposefully ahead, as though seeing something they couldn't. It was only once he'd passed that she noticed something was off about him.

He's transparent!

Before Gwen could ask just what exactly was going on, Forneus spoke. "Since this a memory, everyone you see here is merely a fragment of it. None of them can see or hear us," he explained, his eyes trailing after the transparent figure with something akin to sadness. "Unfortunately, what's done cannot be undone. All we can do is observe."

Gwen followed his gaze, her stomach twisting at the hopelessness in his voice. As she watched the youth venture farther down the road, it occurred to her there was something oddly familiar about him. Immediately, her eyes dropped from the back of his head—his shoulder length hair streaked with hues of copper and dark red—to the forest green clothing he wore. It was some sort of plaid, accentuated with black and yellow tartan lines, drawn tightly from his right shoulder to mid-thigh.

Belt plaid. She didn't know why the words popped into her head right when they did, but she vaguely remembered seeing pictures of it during her World History class the previous semester.

Beneath the belt plaid was a pair of form-fitting leather breeches, and from the knee down, a pair of tightly-laced, tanned leather boots. As her gaze wandered back up to his hair, noticing the way it fell around his shoulders in feathery waves, she gasped. The hair may have been longer and a shade or two lighter, but it looked an awful lot like...

Gwen turned to Forneus. "Is that...Phenex?"

"Indeed, it is. Or rather just as he was," Forneus amended, "more than three-hundred years ago."

"T-Three-hundred," Gwen echoed, wide-eyed. "Phenex is over three-hundred years old?"

"Three-hundred and twenty-two in his current incarnation, to be precise. Far older still, when all three of his lives are taken into account," said Forneus, beckoning Gwen with a wave of his hand. "Come, we can't let him get too far ahead of us."

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